Could Jay Ajayi injury pave way for Eagles, Le'Veon Bell trade? How RB impacts playoff odds

The Eagles have had a run of bad luck to start the 2018 NFL season, going 2-3 to start the year and now losing their starting running back, with Jay Ajayi hitting injured reserve thanks to a torn ACL suffered against the Vikings on Sunday. 

It leaves Philly in a precarious position -- it's in the middle of a crowded, sloppy NFC East with only Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement available at the running back position. So why not avoiding going home by going big? The Eagles have a potential replacement out there in the form of Le'Veon Bell

The Steelers' running back is in the middle of a holdout but the team has made it clear they would like to trade him. Part of the problem is they need a team that's in need of a shot in the arm offensively and is willing to sacrifice a pick (probably a third-round selection at this point) in order to try and make a playoff push. The Eagles are one of the few teams that fit the bill: they could find a way to sign Bell if they want, or just give up a third to chase another title. 

In the interest of curiosity, SportsLine's Stephen Oh -- who appears once a week on the Pick Six Podcast breaking down the stats you need to know for fantasy and gambling, subscribe right here -- ran projections to see how much the loss of Ajayi hurts the Eagles and how much the addition of Bell would help Philly.

And the results were kind of shocking. With the loss of Ajayi, the Eagles' odds of winning the NFC East fell from 34.3 percent to 29 percent. Their average win total went from 8.4 wins to 8.1 wins and they fell from sixth to seventh in the SportsLine NFC playoff projections. That's massive -- it's the difference between making and missing the playoffs

Making a big splash and trading for Bell would have an even bigger impact the other way, "about as big an impact a running back can have." According to the SportsLine projections, adding Bell would take the Eagles from 8.1 wins to 9.2 wins and take their chances of winning the division from 29 percent to 50.5 percent. Their playoff odds would spike from 41.5 percent all the way up to 67 percent. 

The Eagles would go from a 2.6 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl to a 5.0 percent chance to take down the title again. 


WinsNFC FinishDivision ChancesPlayoff ChancesSuper Bowl Chances

Eagles with Jay Ajayi

8.4

6th

34.3%

47.9%

2.6%

Eagles without Jay Ajayi

8.1

7th

29.0%

41.5%

2.2%

Eagles with Le'Veon Bell

9.2

4th

50.5%

67.0%

5.0%

In other words, if you trust the projections and you trust that Bell can come in and play at the level we're accustomed to, this would be a smart gambit by the Eagles. 

There's still so much to figure out here, of course. The Steelers don't actually know when Bell is going to report, and Bell would have to be willing to play for the Eagles on the franchise tag (or see if Philly would adjust his pay for the 2018 season). The Eagles may not be willing to give up a third-round pick for a running back who is hardly guaranteed to be around longer than just a few months.

Trading for Bell and missing the playoffs would be an abject disaster. But if it's clear Bell might be enough to put them over the top, it's worth trying to shove their chips in the middle a bit.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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